Right now, the world is experiencing some of the first dramatic effects of a quickly warming climate. Forest fires in California, Australia burning, unpredictable weather events popping up worldwide.
Just the other day, researchers announced that 2019 was the second warmest year on record, closing out the warmest decade. But for all the grave and very real impacts we see on the news, there is much that we can still do about the situation, and in ways that both protect our climate, spur our economy and empower consumers.
While federal climate policies are going backward, Minnesotans can take heart knowing that its leaders are not waiting around, but taking action to protect our air, our land and our children’s future.
In September, Gov. Tim Walz took a strong step forward by proposing Minnesota join 14 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting clean car standards — requiring car manufacturers provide more electric vehicle options. This commonsense approach to tackling greenhouse gas emissions is both environmentally and consumer friendly. A quintessential win-win for Minnesotans.
Reducing climate pollution and protecting our health
Transportation is currently the biggest source of climate pollution in Minnesota. A study last January by Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency found that the transportation sector is responsible for about a quarter of all emissions within our borders. And while there is good news buried in the report that shows electrical emissions have fallen, Minnesota still lags behind its overall pollution reduction goal. Further good news is that while transportation is the biggest source of pollution, it’s also our biggest opportunity to make progress. Initial estimates indicate that by adopting clean car standards Minnesota would reduce annual emissions by 2 million tons by 2030, and provide a huge leap forward in meeting our overall pollution goals.
Providing increased consumer choice
But not only will this move to align Minnesota with other states reduce pollution, it will also increase consumer choice. Car buyers in clean car states have a lot more electric models to choose from, and Minnesota should have all those options available here. A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Transportation found that there were only 19 models of electric cars available in Minnesota compared to 43 total models available in the U.S.
Automakers, including Ford and GM, have announced plans for dozens of new electric models in the next five years, including 20 electric SUVs and crossover vehicles, well suited to Minnesota lifestyles. And it’s clear from surveys that Minnesotans want these additional options. A recent study found that 6 in every 10 prospective car buyers in Minnesota has some interest in electric cars, trucks and SUVs. The survey also found that 66% of prospective Minnesota car buyers want automakers to provide more types of electric vehicles, like SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans. Adopting the clean car standards would help ensure Minnesotans can find these kinds of electric vehicles in the coming years.
Clean Car Standards are a boon for the economy and consumer pocketbooks
Clean car standards in Minnesota will also grow our economy by putting more dollars in people’s pockets and attracting outside investment. A recent study by Consumer Reports found that by adopting the clean cars standard, Minnesota drivers could save nearly $9 billion over 15 years. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that overall reinvestment of those savings into Minnesota’s economy would net nearly 13,000 additional jobs.
Right now, automakers are focusing their investments in those states with clean car standards, and there’s no reason Minnesota shouldn’t be one of the places these companies are investing, as well. Minnesota is already building its public charging infrastructure by investing part of its share of the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement to support a statewide network of electric vehicle chargers, and this additional outside investment will help our state rapidly move forward with electrifying our transportation system.
Implementing these standards is also an opportunity to leverage Minnesota’s entrepreneurial identity as an innovative leader in the tech sector. Minnesota should be tapping into a larger share of the nearly 300,000 workers in 48 states who are building the components, materials and technology needed to make vehicles more fuel efficient.
In short, Minnesotans want less pollution and more electrical vehicle options. Clean cars are necessary to meet both demands. We can grow our economy, clean our air and save millions of dollars by doing so. It’s a no-brainer.